How to Grow Garlic

garlic

Now is the time I start planting garlic. According to the search stats finding my blog recently, the topic of how to grow garlic seems be quite popular. Planting times, growing and harvesting garlic appears to be causing confusion to some, so I thought I’d put this guide together. I’m not an expert by any means, but it might be useful to those searching the internet looking for information.

When to plant garlic:

I tend to plant garlic during November or December, but you can plant from October right up until early spring, if conditions are right. Reasonably well-drained soil is perfect for autumn planting, and this gives your garlic a longer growing season to produce bigger bulbs. If your soil tends to be too claggy for autumn planting, try starting garlic off in small pots of compost instead, leave them outside your back door or anywhere they won’t blow away! Plant your pots of sprouting garlic out in early spring once soil conditions are right.

growing garlic in a raised bed

Where to buy garlic:

Ideally you should use seed garlic for planting, and this can be bought from many places nowadays. It’s not actually little seeds that you are going to plant, but pre-grown bulbs from disease-free stock. Seed garlic usually come in packs of 2 or 3 bulbs. The usual way to purchase seed garlic would be via a seed merchant catalogue or specialist websites (more choice with varieties), but many more places offer what we need to grow our own, such as DIY chain stores (B&Q for example) and local garden centres, even supermarkets such as Waitrose are recognising the increased interest in kitchen and allotment gardening.

planting garlic

How to plant garlic:

An open sunny site with free draining soil is best. Split the seed garlic into individual cloves before planting, each one of these cloves will grow into a new bulb. I space each clove by stretching my thumb and forefinger apart and place the clove on top of the soil, it’s a rough planting distance but it works for me. Once I’m happy with my rows I make holes with a dibber and place the cloves in the holes, pointy end upper-most. Cover over with soil, the garlic tips should be hidden just below the surface.

Newly planted garlic can be disturbed by birds. To combat this problem I cover my raised beds with wire mesh frames, which simply sit on top and prevent anything from gaining access to the bed until lifted. The frames are easy to make from scraps of wood and chicken wire.

veg frames for raised beds

When to harvest garlic:

Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow, this is usually early summer, depending on planting time and variety. Lift from the ground using a garden fork. After I harvest my garlic I lay the bulbs over the side of a raised bed to allow worms to free themselves from the roots and drop back into the soil below, before dark I take them in from the garden and place somewhere dry to complete the drying process, such as a greenhouse or a shed.

drying garlic bulbs

How to store garlic:

Allow the bulbs to fully dry out before storing, when the bulbs are fully dry they’ll be papery white and rustle when touched. Now you can plait them together if you wish using the stems, or place in a net bag for storing. Trim excess roots.

garlic plait

I store my bulbs in an unheated greenhouse over winter, bringing bulbs to the house when needed. A cool, dry shed or garage would do.

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29 comments

  1. Nice post and good pictures! I follow a local saying around here in Virginia, “Plant on Columbus Day/Harvest on Father’s Day.” It’s a generally good rule of thumb for the larger garlic varieties. I forgot to plant mine this October, so I’d better get it in before the ground freezes!

  2. Yes, nice post! I love the pictures too. Somehow, it seems that British gardens are so picturesque! I love it. Here in New England, I plant garlic in late October. I’d better not wait until December or I’ll have to use a pick axe to dig the soil. A friend of mine started putting his in and so that prompted me to get going with mine. Around here, we harvest sometime around the 4th of July. Then, I usually save a few of my best bulbs each year and plant those for the following year. It works for me. Somewhere along the line I started with disease free bulbs.

  3. Hello and thank you. Sometimes December is just too cold to plant here too, so I tend to get started in November. I do the same by saving bulbs and replanting, but it’s nice to try new varieties sometimes.

  4. A useful and informative post, I’m glad I haven’t left it too late. It’s been wet here, I’m waiting for some drier weather at the moment.

  5. Thanks for this post! I have a question, what happens if you simply use cloves of garlic from the supermarket? What’s the difference between those and garlic “seeds”?

  6. Thanks so much for this post! We have garlic growing now and weren’t sure when to harvest it. The leaves are turning yellow now so I’m guessing we’ll be lifting them up very soon!! Can we use our new bulbs for planting next year or do we need special seed bulbs again?

  7. Hi James, there’s nothing stopping you from trying, just bear in mind seed garlic is from guaranteed disease-free stock, so by planting supermarket garlic you do run the risk of adding disease to your soil. In saying that, I have tried it before (because gardening to me should be fun and I’m a bit of a risk taker), it turned out ok, nothing was harmed, just very small bulbs and not much flavour.

  8. You had me at not very much flavor. That’s enough to convince me to go for the seed stock. Sorry for my brash colonist ways in my total disregard for the “u” in flavor.

    I hadn’t considered soil contamination. Can’t abide that either. In San Diego, it’s after 1am. I should be fast asleep. However, there is a racoon about the yard. He’s already decimated my goldfish in my pond so now I’m sitting watch over my hens until he returns. This is a very primal practice for one in such an urban environment.

    Cheers!
    James

  9. Our garlic was planted earlier and is shooting well. We did try the starting in pots method but didn’t find it to be very successful. I think the plants may have become pot bound before being planted out and then just never really got growing. We have planted in troughs and large pots where they could grow on to maturity and this has worked better.

  10. Great tips! I grow my own garlic each year and it normally lasts my family for the year if preserved properly! This year we had a bunch of rain which meant drying my garlic crop wasnt an option as the tops rotted, so instead I turned to freezing and making Garlic Oil, which so far is turning into being a great solution.

  11. I’m currently moving plots and wondered if you think my garlic, that I planted Nov 2015, which is looking strong might transplant? If the answer is yes any tips on transplanting as the ground is so wet! (Same question about my onions)

  12. Hi Catherine, no harm in trying, I would think it would be possible. Just make sure you lift as much of the surrounding soil as possible to avoid too much root disturbance, and have the new holes ready to drop the garlic into, same depth as before, same with your onions. It might knock them for a bit, but they should pick up.

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